We hear a lot about the importance of serotonin, but may not really understand what it actually is. Sometimes known as the “happy chemical,” serotonin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter (neurotransmitters carry impulses from one part of the brain to another, and from the brain to the rest of the body). Serotonin is involved in the function of several different organ systems in the body.
You may already know that low levels of the brain chemical serotonin are often associated with depression. However, it’s been difficult for scientists to measure its natural fluctuations. A recent study provides the first glimpse at monitoring serotonin in humans in real time.
Several patients scheduled for brain surgery without full anesthesia volunteered to have a special microelectrode inserted during their procedure. The device tracked their serotonin levels while they performed a psychological test following the movement of a random dot.
In addition to providing a breakthrough in measuring serotonin, this study by neuroscientists at University College London produced several other important findings. It confirmed serotonin’s involvement in a wide range of cognitive functions and showed how it affects different parts of the brain.
These findings could help create more effective treatments for many conditions, including depression and Parkinson’s Disease.
Meanwhile, there are things you can do to increase your serotonin levels now. Learn more about the benefits of serotonin and how it affects your health.
Understanding the Benefits of Serotonin
Serotonin does much more than help govern your brain’s pleasure and reward centers. It’s also involved in general cognition and many body functions.
Consider these benefits:
1. Reduces depression and anxiety. Imbalances in serotonin can affect your mood. Some of the most popular antidepressants like Prozac work by blocking reabsorption of serotonin, so you have more available in your brain.
2. Enhances your digestion. You might be surprised to hear that most of your serotonin is in your gastrointestinal tract. Your gut microbiome helps control your digestion, as well as your immune system and brain health.
3. Reduces excess weight. Serotonin is also a natural appetite suppressant. Balancing your brain chemicals could curb your carbohydrate cravings.
4. Helps with healthy sleep. Do you have trouble sleeping? Different serotonin receptors help control both sleeping and waking. They could be the answer to your insomnia.
5. Enhances social interactions. Serotonin might even help you to make friends and impress your boss. It’s one of the brain chemicals that makes it easier to cooperate with others and deal with challenging situations.
Increasing Your Serotonin Levels
Brain chemistry is complicated, so serotonin is just one factor in mood regulation and other processes.
Try experimenting with these natural home remedies for boosting your serotonin levels:
1. Exercise regularly. Staying active helps your body to produce more serotonin and use it more effectively. Smart choices include aerobic activities like biking and running.
2. Adjust your nutrition. Your body makes serotonin by breaking down tryptophan, an amino acid found in certain foods. You can find it in nuts, cheese, poultry, eggs, and salmon. You may also want to eat more probiotics like yogurt and tempeh that increase tryptophan levels too.
3. Turn up the lights. Inadequate exposure to light can lead to serotonin deficiencies. Spend time outdoors each day. If you experience winter depression, ask your doctor about light therapy.
4. Take steps to manage stress. Help serotonin along by staying upbeat. Make time in your schedule for laughter and relaxation.
5. Book a massage. One study found that a massage increases serotonin levels by almost thirty percent. Get a professional massage or learn to do it yourself or with a partner.
6. Consider natural supplements. Products that may increase serotonin include pure tryptophan, folic acid, and vitamin B12. For your safety, check with your doctor or medical provider before adding supplements.
There’s abundant evidence that serotonin helps to make us feel happier, as well as affecting many aspects of our behavior and decision making. Give some of these home remedies a try and watch for the shift.
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